Its undeniable, Twitter is the new means for getting “news”. Today millions of users, young and old, are tuning in and selecting the stories they want to read about. From the NSA Scandal, Oklahoma tornado, Kim Kardashisan’s baby to the best beaches in the world, all stories are being held in one place. We are hastagging our way through all the information and RT (retweeting) what we think is important to our fans an followers. While all this is super convenient, it is happening at rapid speed and without all the facts.
Here is a quick snapshot of the good, bad, and less attractive parts of journalism through social media:
The best thing about social media is that its SOCIAL, therefore, the best ways to use it in connection to the story is to gain others reactions. Twitter in particular has millions of conversations that reporters can listen to and capture the feelings of people affected by the stories they write. I recently read 10 ways journalists can use Twitter before, during and after reporting a story which discusses how we as writers can get other involved in the story. By tapping into the conversations on Twitter we can find support and conduct research making the stories we publish effective. Additionally, we can do our own PR at the same time by getting stake holders involved and keeping them engaged in sharing our stories with their followers. This ultimately helps us build our online credibility, presence and influence.
A major hazard is the inability to correct information once its been published through social media. When reporters did stories in print they took more time to get the facts straight. If a retraction had to be issued, it was done immediately. In the race to get information out first, it seems accuracy has taken a back seat to speed. Take the Oklahoma Tornado which was reported to be 91 people dead, then 51 people and finally 24 people. Add to that the multiple platforms stories are published on and how unlikely it would be to retract a negative statement once out and you have a perfect beginnings to an inaccurate avalanche. Clearly, other journalists agree in a study published by Cision and George Washington University, that we need to be cautious when reporting but also in researching too.
The biggest consideration within the journalistic community is the blurred line between where our freedom of speech begins and ends when publishing online or through social media. Right now our tweets live on search engines like Google. Libel, slander, defemation and more are all being decided in a case by case basis. Other countries are finding themselves in middle of this grey area too. Only last year JourLaw.com published an article related to legal matters, social media and staying safe. Ultimately, we have to be diligent in our efforts to report ethically no matter what platform (print or electronic).